An apparent shortage of high-end digital SLRs threatens to raise street prices in the coming weeks as UK dealers struggle to meet demand after last month?s Japanese earthquake.
Canon and Nikon were forced to shut down their factories in northern Japan following the massive earthquake and deadly 30-foot tsunami that struck the country on 11 March.
Many consumer-level DSLRs are made outside the country, but high-end cameras are manufactured at plants based in Japan and so have borne the brunt of production glitches.
After the quake, Nikon closed a key plant at Natori in Sendai that makes flagship DSLR models, including the D700. Production resumed at the end of March, according to Nikon.
Some UK camera retailers have reported a dearth of top-end cameras, with the price of a Nikon D700 (pictured) rising by more than £100 at one well-known high-street dealership we spoke to.
?Prices of high-end [cameras] will rise substantially,? said Matt Sanders, assistant manager at the London Camera Exchange in Southampton.
He said his store has seen a shortage of high-end Nikon lenses and DSLRs, from the D3S and D3X models down to the D700.
Sanders said the shortages have already caused the price of a Nikon D700 to rise from £1,800 to around £1,900 (body only).
He told us there is also ?very little stock? of the Canon EOS 7D and Canon L-series lenses and a national shortage of the EOS 5D Mark II.
?Supply is way, way down,? said a salesman at Warehouse Express, which boasts the title of the UK?s largest specialist online retailer.
?There is a shortage of everything,? he told us, though he didn?t name specific models.
Warehouse Express normally receives camera deliveries two or three times a week, but not this week.
Asked when a customer could expect delivery of a D700, Warehouse Express said there was no way of telling, adding that camera prices are bound to increase in coming days.
The customer service desk at SRS Microsystems, which is based in Watford, told us: ?I doubt there will be the quantity discounts [for dealers] because there is not going to be the quantity.
?For some firms just selling cameras I think it would put them out of business.?
AP understands that one major brand has pulled promotional activity on high-end cameras from UK stores and stopped supplying dealers with demonstration models because there is little point in offering special deals when there is a shortage of stock.
Retailers ‘fully informed’
Asked whether there is shortage of the D700, a spokeswoman for Nikon UK said it has no information on supplies.
Neither would Canon UK confirm whether there is a shortage of its EOS 7D and EOS 5D Mark II models.
A Canon UK spokeswoman said: ?We have allocated considerable resource into planning with retailers in order to keep them fully informed through this unprecedented period.
?Due to the severity of the earthquake and the events that followed, the situation has been subject to change and will continue to be so in the coming weeks.?
Output of professional lenses at Canon?s factory at Utsunomiya in northern Honshu was badly hit. Operations there were due to ?sequentially resume? this month.
However, production has also suffered in areas not directly affected by the earthquake, as fuel shortages and power blackouts stopped firms from returning to full capacity.
Last week, Sony considered a two-week shutdown of its premises in Japan because of continuing power shortages, following damage to power stations.
While high-end camera output has faired worse, some lower-end DSLRs also rely on components made at factories inside Japan.
Earlier this month, Michio Miwa, managing director of Nikon UK, said that, in general terms, around 10% of parts used in a Nikon DSLR are sourced from Japanese subcontractors.
Although the recently announced D5100 will be assembled in Thailand, Miwa expressed fears that it will suffer from a shortage of parts, as the full impact of the Japan disaster remained unclear.
Sony had yet to respond to our request for comment at the time of writing.